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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Mandated Charity Is Evil, Immoral, and Destructive

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For the life of me, I just can’t understand why conservatives and liberals (i.e., progressives) favor mandated charity. With the exception of foreign interventionism, public schooling, and the drug war, it is difficult to conceive of anything more immoral and destructive than coerced charity.

At local grocery stores here in Virginia, the cashier sometimes asks customers, “Would you like to donate a dollar to xyz cause?” Some customers say yes and others say no. That’s what genuine freedom is all about — the right to say either yes or no response to a request for a donation.

Conservatives and liberals hate that. For them, the fact that some people say “no” is proof positive of the need for government to force everyone to care for others. They love laws that take freedom of choice away from people and force them to do the “right” thing.

Mandated charity is the foundation of the entire modern-day welfare state, a way of life in which people are forced to care for others, whether they want to or not.

The crown jewel of the welfare state is Social Security, a socialistic program that originated in Germany and became part of America’s governmental system more than 100 years after the Constitution brought the federal government into existence. Like other socialistic programs, Social Security forcibly extracts money from young people’s income in order to give it to others.

The same is true with Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, foreign aid to dictators, and every other welfare-state program. It’s all based on coerced charity—the notion that it is the role of government to force people to be good and caring.

How do conservatives and liberals reconcile their belief in mandated charity with the principles of a free society? They say that since mandated-charity laws are democratically enacted by Congress and signed into law by the president, they are morally legitimate under the concept of democracy.

But doesn’t that reasoning abrogate the concept of fundamental, natural, God-given rights that are beyond the reach of the majority? If a duly enacted law required everyone to go to church on Sunday, we wouldn’t say that such a law was consistent with a free society.

The problem is that while conservatives believe in religious liberty, they don’t believe in economic liberty, which encompasses the right of people to do whatever they want with their own money.

How are people’s charitable decisions any different, in principle, from their religious decisions? If a person is free to decide whether to go to church or not, why shouldn’t he be free to decide whether to donate to charity or not?

Mandated charity has done untold damage to the moral fiber of the American people, causing all too many of them to honestly believe that they and the nation could never survive without the dole. How many times have we heard such things as, “I could never make it without Social Security and Medicare”? Or “I would have never gotten an education if it hadn’t been for federal assistance”? Or “No one except me would help the poor if the government wasn’t forcing people to do so”?

It’s that mindset of governmental dependency that the welfare state has inculcated into the American people. In the process, the traits that characterized our American ancestors, such as can-do, self-reliance, and independence, have fallen by the wayside.

With their embrace of mandated charity, conservatives and liberals have led out nation down the wrong road — the road to moral debauchery, envy, covetousness, looting, plunder, dependency, economic chaos, and financial crises.

There is but one solution: a complete separation of charity and the state, a way of life in which the government would be prohibited from mandating charity and in which people would be free to make charitable decisions for themselves.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.